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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Alpha and Omega

January 9th, 2011

Alpha and Omega - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack

It was a big year for digital animation with Toy Story 3 leading the box office for the year and most assume it will pick up an Oscar nod for Best Picture. How to Train Your Dragon earned nearly perfect reviews. Meanwhile, Universal entered the market with Despicable Me, which was a hit with moviegoers and critics alike. Alpha and Omega isn't the first digitally animated film released by Lionsgate, but they certainly are not a major player in the market. Does the film show they have the potential to become one, or is it strictly second tier?

The Movie

Alpha and Omega is a film about grey wolves living in Jasper National Park in Canada, specifically two of them: Humphrey and Kate. We meet Humphrey playing with his group of friends. He's one of the low level omega wolves in his wolf pack and they spend their days having fun. He's interesting in Kate, the daughter of the pack's leader, Winston, who is destined to be the leader, after some training, and as he is informed, repeatedly, Alphas and Omegas don't socialize.

That next spring, Humphrey is still messing around, while Kate is ready to assume her position as leader. The first hunt, she is beaten to the prey, a couple caribou, by two wolves from a rival pack and in the process dinner escapes. Actually, dinner meets up with the rest of the heard and stampedes, and nearly kills the wolves from both packs. With not enough food, the leader of the rival pack, Tony, suggests the two packs unite, so they can take down the caribou heard together. In order to seal this union, Winston's daughter, Kate, will marry Tony's son, Garth. At first she agrees to do her duty, but there's something about Garth is too much to take. (I won't explain what it is for two reasons. Firstly, it's a MacGuffin, and secondly, it's rather stupid.)

Humphrey sees this has his chance and makes his move on Kate by mocking her mate, but before he can get anywhere, the two of them are spotting by animal control and hit with tranquilizer darts. They are to be part of a wolf relocation program where wolves from Canada are transported to Sawtooth National Wilderness Park in Idaho, which used to have a natural wolf population, but that was driven to extinction years ago. Humphrey and Kate meet up with a with a golf-loving goose, Marcel, and his duck / caddy, Paddy, who agree to help them get back, because if they don't get back in to for Kate to marry Garth, their two packs will go to war.

From that point on, the film is a Homeward Bound type Road Trip movie mixed with a cross-class romance. The film never really rises above average with plenty of stock characters and predictable situations. The adventure is rather tame with just an encounter with a angry trio of bears representing much in the way of danger, while using the tree trunk to slide down a mountain was overused. The jokes aren't exactly A-material, but at least they are not just lazy pop-culture references and poop jokes. There's a lot of talk of mating, or repopulating, making little wolves, etc., but I don't think most parents would look at the film as inappropriate for most kids.

As for the animation, the fur effects are not as good as they were in Monsters, Inc.. Granted, that film cost more than $100 million to make compared to just $20 million for Alpha and Omega. On the other hand, it also came out nearly a decade ago. There are also some artistic choices I questioned. Like why do the wolves have haircuts? I understand anthropomorphism being used to help viewers connect with the characters, but it was too much and instead became a distraction. I guess if the overall film was better, this is something I wouldn't have noticed.

On a side note, the film was shown in theaters in 3-D, and there are more than a few shots that were obviously made for cheap thrills. Without the 3-D effects, they no longer serve any purpose.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include a pop-up trivia track with information on wolves, geese, bears, and the various other animals seen in the movie. There is also a 21-minute making of featurette that is broken into three parts, there's a 12-minute look at wolves in the wild, a deleted scene, and a couple interactive features. The first is a game where you choose one of three paths to get down the mountain, while the second is a personality quiz.

All of these extras are ported over to the Blu-ray, but there's nothing additional. Also, while the audio and visual are very good, they are not great. Compared to other digitally animated films, the detail level here isn't very high, but at least the colors are good. Surround sound speakers are underused, as is the bass, but the dialogue is clear.

Finally, the Blu-ray only costs $3 more than the DVD, and it comes with the DVD and a digital copy of the movie. It's hard to beat that price.

The Verdict

Good kids movies are movies made for kids, but adults will enjoy too. Great kids movies are movies made for adults that kids will enjoy. Alpha and Omega is a kids movie that might hold the young one's attention, but adults will want to think of an excuse to leave the room. It just never rises above average. If your kids were interested in seeing it, but you didn't get a chance to in theaters, then the DVD / Blu-ray is worth a rental. Meanwhile, if your kids loved it and you are looking to purchase, the latter is the better deal.


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Filed under: Video Review, Alpha and Omega 3D